Description: As we roll towards November even those of us who are NOT American or living in the United States are anticipating the upcoming election with a wide range of thoughts and emotions. Before he, possibly, moves on we can yet again consider a much-discussed possible aspect of Donald Trump’s personality, specifically narcissism. The trait of narcissism involving intense self-focus and self-aggrandizement and entitlement is considered to be one of the Dark Triad or Tetrad of personality traits (search Dark Triad using the search box on this blog site for several posts talking about these traits) that make some people difficult to deal with. Here is a challenge though. Can you come up with a hypothesis about social situations or times when being somewhat narcissistic might be good for you? Oh, and let me take away the obvious answer in order to challenge you a bit more; yes, politicians likely need to be at least a little bit narcissistic in order to do what they do, particularly during campaigns. Once you have one or two hypotheses in mind read the article linked below to find out what some British Psychologists’ research has to say.
Source: The bright side of narcissism: How the ‘dark’ trait lowers stress and depression, Sharon Kirkey, Health and Wellness, National Post.
Date: October 11, 2020
So, how did your hypotheses fare? Had you thought that there might be a relationship between narcissistic tendencies and lower levels of depression and anxiety? Had the possible evolutionary advantages of a little narcissism occurred to you? It is worth remembering (or realizing if you have not run across this before) that Psychologists maintain a distinction between personality traits and personality disorders. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a problem but drawing on some of the ‘dark’ trait of narcissism could be advantageous, sometimes. The researchers used the phrase ‘sub-clinical’ narcissism to talk about this. It links into the debate leading up to the production of the latest edition (5th) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders that involved heated debates about whether Personality Disorders should continue to be characterized categorically and standalone disorders or whether a series of dimensions should be used with the idea that combinations of dimensions and extremity cutting scores could be better used to define personality disorders (Search personality disorders on this site to see some posts of this). The idea is that personality disorders reflect extreme locations on personality dimensions along with a lack of flexibility or an inability to get down off those extremes. Being flexible and being able to draw on a broad palate of personality trait dimensions, even a little bit of narcissism, can be adaptive and reflective of resilience.
Questions for Discussion:
- What does it mean to be narcissistic?
- What is the difference between being a narcissist and having a little bit of narcissism and why might one of these actually be good for us sometimes?
- How might we shift our thinking and talking about narcissism in order to access the benefits of lower levels or rates of depression and anxiety? Or is that even a good thing to consider?
References (Read Further):
Papageorgiou, Kostas A., et al. “Longitudinal associations between narcissism, mental toughness and school achievement.” Personality and Individual Differences 131 (2018): 105-110. Link
Papageorgiou, K. A., Gianniou, F. M., Wilson, P., Moneta, G. B., Bilello, D., & Clough, P. J. (2019). The bright side of dark: Exploring the positive effect of narcissism on perceived stress through mental toughness. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 116-124. Link
Papageorgiou, K. A., Denovan, A., & Dagnall, N. (2019). The positive effect of narcissism on depressive symptoms through mental toughness: Narcissism may be a dark trait but it does help with seeing the world less grey. European Psychiatry, 55, 74-79. Link
Papageorgiou, K. A., Wong, B., & Clough, P. J. (2017). Beyond good and evil: Exploring the mediating role of mental toughness on the Dark Triad of personality traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 119, 19-23. Link
De Clercq, B., Hofmans, J., Vergauwe, J., De Fruyt, F., & Sharp, C. (2017). Developmental pathways of childhood dark traits. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(7), 843. Link
Smith, M. B., Hill, A. D., Wallace, J. C., Recendes, T., & Judge, T. A. (2018). Upsides to dark and downsides to bright personality: A multidomain review and future research agenda. Journal of Management, 44(1), 191-217. Link